It wasn’t until a few years ago, that I discovered my love for writing. It happened with one of those “a ha” moments after reading a book to my children. After some research I found a local NJSCBWI critique group. It was one of the best decision as a writer I could have made. Along with continually getting helpful and honest feedback, I am surrounded by a group of my peers that continually help and motivate me. I have found that the more I help other’s with their work, the stronger my own writing becomes.
As with my visual art I try to take a very systematic approach to writing, building from the foundation up. When creating a piece of art I start simple and work my way forward. Ideas turn into thumbnails, thumbnails turn to comps, comps turn to color studies, color studies lead to a final drawing, and then onto the finish. Writing is a very similar process to me. I start with the idea, or a sentence, and work my way forward. I use mind mapping tools to visually see where the story is going. I add multiple scenarios and themes and try to piece them together to make them fit into the puzzle. This allows me to work out the foundation before I lay down the rest of the story. Sometimes this process is quick and other times it is not. I find a story will usually write itself when it is ready. I just keep in my files and the back of my mind as I slowly work on the plot, characters, and theme. It is similar to cooking soup. You add the ingredients, keep tasting along the way, and adjust as needed.
The first draft is the easy part. Everything and anything comes out on the paper or computer screen. It is editing that takes patience, time, and skill. I see myself as a sculptor chipping away at the marble until the story is polished and ready to come out. There have been many drafts of my stories where I’ve felt I “needed” to keep parts of the story in, only to realize later that they were completely unnecessary. I always edit with a pair of fresh eyes. If I feel the need to push and get the story done, I know it is time to walk away from it until it is completely out of my head. I have found that this “need” to finish will often cloud and distort my vision from being able to clearly see what may be needed to enhance the story.
As an artist and writer I have learned to let go. If something doesn’t work, remove it. Just because an element of the story is well written, funny, or cool, does not mean it belongs. I have found this to be one of my best attributes as a writer. To be able to stop on a dime and change directions in a story. There is no sense in trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The earlier I realize this in my writing, the easier and stronger my work becomes.